My Experiences Exploring: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

Written By Nicki Holm, CSU STEM VISTA Member 2016-17 Cal Poly San Luis Obispo

Nicki.jpgFrom an early age, cancer played an integral role in the lives of those closest to me. Her name was Megan, she was my best friend, and she was only eighteen months old when she was diagnosed with glioblastoma multiforme. Even though she passed just before her seventh birthday, we experienced together more life than I would rationally think possible in just over six years, and it was losing her that led third grade Nicki to start asking questions like: What is cancer? How could a disease be so indiscriminate that it affects such a wide range of ages, abilities, etc.? And the question seemingly everyone asks, what can we do?  

To set the foundation for one day hoping to have even the slightest understanding of this Emperor of all Maladies — the title and name given to cancer in Siddhartha Mukherjee’s Biography of Cancer — I attended California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo in pursuit of a B.S. in Biological Sciences, with a concentration in Cellular & Molecular Biology. Over the course of my time at Cal Poly SLO, I took invaluable classes like Genetics, Cell Biology, Virology, and Immunology, but it was not until taking Molecular Biology Laboratory in my fourth year that I ever heard the name Henrietta Lacks. Continue reading

Bridging Together Technical and Social Worlds

Written By Emily Liptow, CSU STEM VISTA Member 2015-17 Cal Poly San Luis Obispo

12803200_10153427471656381_8061855602720549735_n.jpgI remember quite clearly a moment early in my undergraduate studies when I first became distraught at the social-technical divide that pervades our education system and society at large. I was excited to be taking one of my very first Industrial Engineering classes where we were exposed to some of the basic principles of the field. In one of the first weeks of class, our professor provided a brief history of Industrial Engineering, introducing us to Frederick Taylor who is considered the father of the field. Taylor is known for his contributions to industrial efficiency and development of time studies and Scientific Management.

Just a few weeks after learning about Taylor in my engineering class, we met again in a very different context. I was taking a class on the sociology of work and employment, and we had just begun learning about the formation of unions around the time of the industrial revolution. We learned of the abuses many workers faced as manufacturing companies focused on production, efficiency, and the bottom line. Taylor’s ideology of management largely contributed to the dehumanization of workers, reducing them to cogs within the manufacturing process. Continue reading

PEEPS: Not Only About Marshmallows

Written by Jeffrey Cabanez, CSU STEM VISTA 2014-2015

IMG_0720When you hear the word PEEPS, what comes to mind? Probably five yellow marshmallows shaped as tiny chickens, or five pink marshmallows shaped as tiny bunnies, placed in a box wrapped in plastic. You know, the candy that everyone likes for two months out of the year but is irrelevant for the other ten. When I hear the word PEEPS, I think academic learning communities, professional development opportunities, block scheduling, and financial aid.

At Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, I am working with a brand new scholarship program called the Program for Engineering Excellence for Partner Schools, cleverly shortened to PEEPS. PEEPS aims to recruit, retain, and graduate engineering students from underrepresented backgrounds. To recruit students to apply for our scholarship program, we worked with Admissions and Financial Aid to see what target group would benefit the most. We decided that Cal Poly Partner Schools would be the students we recruit from. A Cal Poly Partner High School is a high school that meets one or more of the following criteria:Jeffrey (2)

  • The school is part of the College Preparation Partnership Program introduced by Senator Hayden.
  • The school supports First Generation student’s efforts to attend college.
  • The school primarily serves students eligible for free or reduced school lunch.

Continue reading